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'Despicable' pair who stole OAP's life savings jailed

By Ashleigh McDonald

Published 19/08/2015

Two men who stole an 80-year-old woman's life savings from her handbag in a west Belfast shopping centre have been jailed for their
Two men who stole an 80-year-old woman's life savings from her handbag in a west Belfast shopping centre have been jailed for their "despicable behaviour"

Two men who stole an 80-year-old woman's life savings from her handbag in a west Belfast shopping centre have been jailed for their "despicable behaviour."

Gerard Devlin (25) from Donegall Road and 22-year-old Nathan Finn from Malone Road were each handed a three-year sentence for the theft of £5,709 from the "vulerable" victim.

Judge Patricia Smyth told the pair, who appeared in the dock of Belfast Crown Court, that they will serve 18 months of their sentence in custody, with the remaining 18 months on licence upon their release.

The court heard that the 80-year-old woman had been left "deeply traumatised" by the offence which was carried out at the Kennedy Centre on October 31 last year.

Prior to the theft, which occurred in the Sainsbury's coffee shop and which was captured on CCTV, the pensioner had withdrawn her life savings from the Danske Bank, which she was planning to use for home improvements.

After withdrawing the money, which the pensioner placed in a plastic bag, she purchased a few groceries in Sainsbury's before visiting the coffee shop.

While she was standing in the queue, Finn distracted the woman while co-accused Devlin reached into her handbag and stole the bag containing the cash.

The court heard that the money was never recovered, and while both Finn and Devlin admitted the theft, they have never disclosed what happened to the stolen cash.

During yesterday's sentencing, both men stood in the dock with their heads bowed as Judge Smyth branded their behaviour "despicable".

Telling the pair that in her view the theft was planned, the judge said there was "no doubt" that they "deliberately targeted" the vulnerable 80-year old woman.

Judge Smyth also said the incident has left the pensioner traumatised and on medication, and that she has "suffered a great deal" as a result of what happened.

Judge Smyth said Finn, who has a history of substance abuse, committed the offence within days of being released on licence for a previous matter.

She also questioned whether the remorse he has since expressed was genuine.

Regarding Devlin, Judge Smyth revealed that he wrote a letter to his elderly victim - but again questioned if his remorse was genuine.

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